Religious Studies | Religion and Personality: Religion and the Self in Augustine, Kierkegaard, and Freud
R365 | 25867 | Miller, R.
This course is about the relationship between religion, psychology,
and the moral life. It focuses on the quality of dispositions; our
loves, fears, hatreds, and regrets; our sense of responsibility to
ourselves and others; our (anxious) awareness that we are limited in
body and time; and our attempt to craft a narrative of self-
understanding. In this way we will examine questions of virtue, self-
knowledge, religious experience, and the challenge of authenticity.
Some focal questions include: Is religion a source of psychic
health, or an obstacle to it? What sorts of problems is religion
meant to cure? What problems do religious beliefs create? How does
religion bear upon the self's loves, its past, its mortality, its
doubts? We will examine how each of these authors organized their
answers to these questions in ways that shaped their interpretation
of the love command. We will also look at concrete actions,
cultural practices, and religious institutions. Along the way we’ll
ask whether it is really possible to want to do evil, whether it is
possible to love or grieve too much, what is meant by purity of
heart, and whether we ought to love the dead. We’ll look concretely
at relationships with mothers and fathers, the emergence of mega-
churches, and what's involved in wearing "authentic NBA apparel."
We will study these questions and cases through the works of
Augustine, Soren Kierkegaard, and Sigmund Freud. These authors
examined how the self can be a problem to itself. They were strong
poets of self-analysis who turned to religion to provide either a
cure for or an explanation of the self's internal woes. In part they
believed that the path to truth was taken through self-examination.
What we find as they take us along that path will be a central topic
of this course. These authors also saw their ideas as having broader
implications for cultural and social criticism. Their brilliant
efforts to study the self’s longings, pathologies, cultural
influences, and religious practices will be the focus of our
readings and discussions.